CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Andre Curbelo has checked into a game hundreds of time in his career but going to the scorer’s table in the first half on Monday against No. 4 Purdue is a moment he won’t soon forget.
“I could’ve cried, easily I could have cried,” Curbelo said on Thursday. “I was crying on the inside, just happy tears. I was so proud of so thankful to be back on the court.”
Curbelo played 25 minutes and scored a career high 20 points in a 96-88 double overtime loss to the Boilermakers. Illinois head coach Brad Underwood had only planned on playing the dynamic sophomore point guard for six to eight minutes, returning from post concussion related issues.
“He practiced two days guys,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “And he had a colored jersey on so that we could avoid contact with him. It’s kind of like putting the pink jersey on the quarterback, you don’t hit him. And then he goes out and plays in a real game. He was cleared, about 4 o’clock, 4:30 the day before the game. He knew we’d give him a little run, but for his condition to be what it was, and he was gassed at the end.”
“When you go through a tough injury like this you think of the worst,” Curbelo said. “Knowing that the fans were excited for me to be back was a great thing and a great feeling. I’m not the kind of guy to say I’m always so proud of myself, but I was just kind of proud of myself in that moment.”
No. 17 Illinois visits Maryland Friday night in College Park for a 6 p.m. tip-off on FS1.